The Sabres’ season was not all for not, even though they
did not reach their final prize of winning Lord Stanley, there were many positives throughout the season. The Sabres are expected to have one of their busiest summers in years.
With the recent re-signing of Lindy Ruff to a multi-year extension,we know that the coaching staff will remain in tact.
This move was a great to silence the critics and keep the longest tenured coach in Buffalo who does not get the respect he deserves. The Sabres will have many moves to be made and many things could be shaken up.
Buffalo have six key players who are up for unrestricted free agency who could sign with any team they would like. Those players consist of Tim Connolly, Mike Grier, Rob Niedermayer, Cody McCormick, Steve Montador and Patrick Lalime.
The Sabres also have eight restricted free agents who the Sabres have the first right to negotiate with them and they could go to arbitration. These eight players are, Drew Stafford, Nathan Gerbe, Andrej Sekera, Chris Butler, Mike Weber, Jhonas Enroth, Mark Mancari and Marc Andre Gragnani.
Almost all of the unrestricted free agents could be let go, as they are not huge losses. Tim Connolly cannot possibly be resigned with his huge contract and lack of production. The injury prone center needs to be replaced with someone who can produce more as a second line center.
Grier and Niedermayer are good, veteran players, but don’t contribute a whole lot during the regular season. Keeping Grier over Niedermayer would make more sense since he’s been a good leader on the team and can contribute more on the penalty kill. Niedermayer was absent on the ice for most of the season but did step it up come playoff time. However, Niedermayer seemed as if he were gliding on the ice many times and showed lack of hustle as his age seems to be wearing on him.
Cody McCormick brings toughness that lacks in the lineup and could potentially be resigned. Montador played good in the regular season but dropped the ball come playoff time, which could cost him a job come next season. “I believe that any team is better with me on the ice,” Montador said. Montador does bring toughness and leadership on a very young defensive line.
Patrick Lalime saw his job slip away from him as Jhonas Enroth clearly was the better goaltender. The Sabres can find a better backup goaltender on the free agent market if Enroth remains in Portland.
All of the restricted free agents should be brought back as they are all very young have a lot to offer. Drew Stafford had a stellar season with his 52 points in 61 games. He was second on the team in scoring, just one goal shy of tying team leader, Thomas Vanek, and notched four hat tricks on the year.
Gerbe played with the most heart on the team during the Sabres’ seven game series with the Philadelphia Flyers. Butler looked very shaky in the playoffs and was by far the weakest defenseman.
Enroth played amazing when Ryan Miller needed a break or was injured. Enroth could be a signed and later traded because there are many teams seeking a young goaltender like Enroth who has showed great promise. Enroth could help the Sabres bring in a position that they need more than goaltending with Ryan Miller leading the way.
Marc-Andre Gragnani was the one highlights in the playoffs, surprising everyone with a much deserved seven points in as many games. Gragnani has great potential and should be on the starting roster next year.
Stay tuned to a busy offseason for the Sabres this summer. This is the first offseason that Terry Pegula has to make his mark on this team. If it’s anything like the trade deadline when the Sabres acquired Brad Boyes, Sabres fans are in for a treat.